Sir Alex Ferguson has declared that his side's experience could be key to Sunday's match at Chelsea at a time when the Premier League champions are attempting to introduce youth to their ranks.
Ferguson rejected the notion that Carlo Ancelotti's squad has been exposed by the club moving on too many seasoned players last summer. Joe Cole, Ricardo Carvalho, Deco, Juliano Belletti and Michael Ballack all departed, but the Manchester United manager observed in a radio interview that his own squad have big-game experience which can count in their favour.
United are seeking their first win at Stamford Bridge since the 3-0 victory in April 2002, when Paul Scholes, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored. "I think Chelsea have been gradually introducing one or two younger players into their squad, so maybe that's why [results have been erratic]. Ballack's contract came to the end. Belletti's contract came to an end. They have been replacing these players with younger ones such as [Daniel] Sturridge and the young boy [Josh] McEachran.
"Their plan was always to start introducing younger players and I think that's a good thing but it can backfire if you get injuries. You need big squads these days because the number of matches and the intensity of matches does produce injuries. There's no question that having a big squad helps."
Ferguson can point to the performances against Arsenal on Monday night of two of the young players he has invested faith and money in: Anderson and Rafael da Silva. Anderson, whose future at Old Trafford seemed to be over, signed a new four-year deal yesterday.
The loss of the title last spring, with Chelsea's 1-0 win at Old Trafford decisive, is not the only incentive for beating Carlo Ancelotti's side. There is also the poor Stamford Bridge record. United did not register a single goal at the ground between August 2002 and April 2008. But Chelsea are without a win in five matches and Ferguson says the importance of this game cannot be overstated.
"That's a massive game now," he said. "We used to have a terrific record at Chelsea but not so much over the last few years and we haven't won there for... years. It's a big game for us and we'll be ready for it. We couldn't get there sooner. We've got good players and they have all had big-game experience for years now. It's not as if it is new to them. Their experience is very important and the desire is still there with this club. All our players have good desire to win matches."
Anderson has not fulfilled the potential he arrived with when he and Nani were signed from Portugal in the summer of 2007 to recast the midfield, but his form in the past three games has been his best for United.Reuse content